Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Bad Day in the Land of Forks

Not the kind you eat with... bicycle forks! Most of you probably know, but for those that don't... the fork is the... well, um... fork-like thing that holds the front wheel and is connected to the steering system on your bike. It's a pretty important part of your bike, and the kind of thing you don't want damaged.

Well, today we had two very different bikes come in with severe fork damage. So severe that replacement is the only option. Sometimes, with minor damage on a steel fork, you can gently bend it back, but in many cases it's either impossible or simply not prudent to try to fix it.

Exhibit A to the left here is the fork on a Dahon Speed D7 folding bike. The owner was pretty vague about how this happened... he indicated jumping a "lip", but said that it was only about an inch high. Color me skeptical, because that's an enormous amount of damage to be caused by a small hop! One leg of the fork is bent sideways several INCHES out of line. The other leg looks like it's bent, but less severely. However it was that it happened, there's no saving the fork... we're ordering a new one.

The second bike was a nice carbon fiber road bike from Trek. The photos show that the bottom few inches of one leg were snapped clear off! You might also see that the remaining end is badly scraped. How the heck did this happen, you ask? Well, those of you who have been in the cycling world, especially the repair end, probably have this figured out already... the bike had an unplanned encounter with the top of the entry way to a garage or carport, on the roof of the owner's car! This is a surprisingly common accident. You'd think folks would remember they have a couple thousand dollars of stuff sticking up off the roof, well above the height of entryways... but it's amazing how easy it is to forget. Years ago, a housemate of mine had a roof rack from Yakima, and they offered an accessory back then that I thought was brilliant... a spring loaded sign, that stuck to your car hood with a magnet. The spring was just strong enough to pop the sign up in front of you, announcing "Bikes!" whenever you dropped below about 5 mph! What a great idea this was. Sadly, as near as I can tell, it's no longer available. Could have prevented this sad mishap.

Oh, and that's the snapped off piece there on the left, lying on my workbench.

Now one thing I should mention, in case any of you have an accident where you think the fork might have been damaged.... you should ALWAYS have the fork and the rest of the bike checked out by someone who knows what they are doing. It's possible, even likely, that some other part of the bike, such as the frame, suffered damage in the accident. And having the fork examined, repaired, or replaced is essential. Think about it... if you were riding along at a good clip, and the fork were to suddenly break, and the front wheel were to become disconnected from the bike and your ability to steer it... how badly could you be hurt? So please... if you think you might have a damaged fork... say you ran into the back of a parked car, or go clipped by a motorist, or whatever happened... bring the bike to a mechanic you trust to see if it's still safe to ride.

Pretty obvious in these cases that they weren't able to be ridden any more... but sometimes it's more subtle than that.


John Pickett said...

I rode my trusty old Raleigh Grand Prix through numerous New England winters and crashed it several times. I brought it with me to DC. One day I rode it down the steep hill on the Custis Trail to Key Bridge. On the way back up the front end felt funny so I stopped at the top of the hill. Just as I bent over my handlebars to get a look at my front wheel, I watched as my right fork blade fell off and hit the sidewalk with a "CLANK". I can't imagine what would have happened if it had fallen off on the way down that hill.

Tim said...

WOW! That was a close call. Glad it happened the way it did.

Where did the fork blade separate? Was it a crack in the steel, or the brazing at the fork crown giving out? Those old Raleighs were good bikes, but from what I understand, the brazing was sometimes iffy.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.